Traveling by train

In order to save time and get more vacation in, I got the brilliant idea of taking night trains to and from Prague and Venice. I had never traveled on a train before and Amy had never bought a bed on a train, so we didn't know what we were in for.

We got to the Munich train station and got our travel car. It was six bunks to car, three hooked to each wall, smaller than a twin bed. We got a thin pillow, a couple of sheets and a thin blanket. Plus we also got three travel mates. A New Yorker who wasn't friendly and a German couple.

Navigation was difficult. No more than two people could stand at a time and getting into the upper bunks was tough. Amy and I had the lower bunks on the first trip, to Prague, thank goodness.

The travel mates also meant they would have to suffer through a terrible Timko curse: Snoring.

My mother holds the top spot in the hall of fame of snoring, but the rest of us are champions too. It was on this trip that I learned that Amy, too, has the dreaded snoring curse. She pointed out she didn't pick it up until she changed her last name to Timko. I think it's rooted in the genes.

For the trip, Amy and I had foam rubber ear plugs. The morning we arrived in Prague, the German man saw the ear plugs and said it was a good idea and that he forgot his. Amy said my snoring was horrible. I was too polite to comment on her snoring.

The photo is actually of the train back from Prague to Munich. For an extra $14 total we moved up to business class, which means only four people to a cabin instead of six. But no one else was in business class, so we got it to ourselves, thus saving other travelers from the Timko curse. It may have been that the conductor pocketed the extra money, but we didn't care. A sleeper car would mean only two beds to a cabin, but that was way too expensive.

We initially couldn't get business class on our trip to Venice, but Amy was able to wrangle us a cabin of our own. Some American travelers came on the train and complained bitterly about paying extra for tickets and not getting their own cabin. We figured the conductor may have given it to us. The conductor made of point of telling us to lock our door.

The Italian trains had a particular problem for me. The middle bunks doubled as backrests and had arm rests to separate the seats. Those arm rests also protruded down onto the bottom bunk when it was set up as a bed. Needless to say there wasn't enough room for someone of my size to fit on the bottom bunk under the arm rests.

The Italian trains also had disposable linen for the beds. Granted, the cars were heated, but our bedding consisted of a thin sheet underneath not much stronger than a napkin and sturdier paper for the blanket.

The Italian trains also had the distinction of being covered with graffiti. We slept on the inside of the train so I guess it didn't matter what the outside looked like, but it would have been nice to have trains that weren't spray painted over.

On the trip back from Venice, our luck sort of ran out. We couldn't get a business class cabin. When our train took off out of Venice, though, we had no cabin mates. Even so, with the U.S. at war in Afghanistan and me not wanting to stir up an international incident with our allies, I decided to sleep with with my tennis shoes on to minimize foot odor. The train stopped in Austria and there was knocking on our door. Amy initially didn't answer it. She said my snoring was so loud she thought it someone from the cabin next door knocking the door to complain and thought they would go away if she ignored them. But it was our roommates for the remainder of the trip. I tried sleeping on my side to minimize the snoring. Amy said sleeping on my side did no good. My snoring was terrible. But at least they didn't suffer from my foot odor.

There was an interesting contrast in border crossings. Crossing from Germany to the Czech Republic, we were awaken about 3 a.m. and first had an armed German police officer come through and check our passports, and then an armed Czech police officer checked. We were trying to get back to sleep when there was another knock on the door. A Czech customs woman entered our cabin and asked if we had anything to declare. None of us were Czech, so it was pointless. Amy snapped at her and shut her up. It was so funny. I teased Amy that she was only curt with the Czech customs woman because she was the only one that was unarmed. I'd like to think the reason she stopped at our cabin is she saw the name Timko and thought maybe we might be natives.

Going to and from Italy, the conductor asked for our passports after we boarded and gave them to us the next morning. No armed police officers shining flashlights in our eyes.

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